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The Red Lion Hotel Sandy

The old and new Red Lion Hotels about 1955 [Z50/99/40a]
The old and new Red Lion Hotels about 1955 [Z50/99/40a]

The Red Lion Hotel: Market Square, Sandy

Given the popularity of the name it is, perhaps, not surprising that the Red Lion Hotel which closed in 1986 was not the first in Sandy to bear that name. In 1710 Francis Brace the younger of Bedford conveyed a messuage in Sandy now an inn or alehouse called the Red Lion to it occupier Sarah Deane [F325-326]. By 1729, however, when the property was mortgaged to George Rugeley of Potton, apothecary for £80, it was described as formerly an inn called the Red Lion [F333-334]. It was mortgaged by John Green, the occupier, who had been devised the property in Sarah Deane’s will. It seems likely that it was on Sarah’s death that the property ceased to be an inn.

The later Red Lion seems to have been the most important licensed premises in Sandy from the 18th century into the 20th, standing, as it did on the south side of the Market Square. The deeds to the property are held in the Greene King archive [GK] but, as will be seen, do not give us a date for the opening of the property as a licensed premises. Surviving photographs show a two storey, six bay building, whitewashed and with a tiled roof. The building does not look any earlier than the 19th century [see below].

The first deed dates to 1710 when Francis Brace the younger of Bedford (who also conveyed the earlier Red Lion at that date) conveyed a property in Sandy with a close of one acre adjoining to John Baines of Sandy, blacksmith and Hannah, his wife, for £65 [GK33/1]. John Baines, probably son of the man who bought the property, mortgaged it in 1725 for £20 [GK33/2] when it is described as a cottage in which he lived with homestall (farm buildings) and buildings and a close of one acre. The mortgage was assigned to a different lender in 1727 [GK33/4] and again in 1735 when an additional £50 was borrowed [GK33/5]. This mortgage was, in it turn, assigned to a different lender two years later [GK33/7]. By 1770 Baines was dead and his daughter Elizabeth Blewett and her husband William and their son also called William, who had been left the property by Baines in his will joined in an assignment of the mortgage to another lender [GK33/10]. William Blewett the younger made his will in 1796 and described himself as victualler which is a clue to the fact that the property had now become the Red Lion. Certainly in 1800 his father William was buried, aged 87, and was himself described as victualler, presumably of the Red Lion. William the son died in 1804 leaving all his property to his wife Catherine [GK33/12]. If one had to guess, it might be that the assignment of mortgage of 1737 when an additional £50 was borrowed, mark the opening of the Red Lion, the extra money being needed to alter the premises and set up in the trade. In 1811 an inquisition was held at the Red Lion into the affairs of Thomas Sutton who, ironically, was owner of the property which had been called the Red Lion until about 1729 [F445].

In 1817 Catherine Blewett conveyed a cottage in Sandy known as the Red Lion, here so called for the first time, with an adjoining close now used as an orchard to Joseph Meen of Biggleswade, yeoman, for the £948 owed to Samuel Wells of Biggleswade, brewer (son of the founder of Wells and Company) as mortgagee – Meen paying the money directly to Wells as he was acting as Wells’ trustee [GK33/14].

In 1819 John Banes of Sandy, yeoman, with Nathaniel Vincent Herbert of Biggleswade assigned a lease for 500 years to Samuel Wells on a cottage in Sandy in the occupation of  Catherine Blewett for £150 [GK33/15]. This indicates that Wells bought a property near to the Red Lion to be added to it and it is, perhaps, at this stage that the inn acquired the form shown on 19th and 20th century photographs.

In 1881 an incident took place with a drunk at the property, recorded in the archive of local solicitor Hooper and Fletcher [HF147/20/7]: PC James Watts stationed at Sandy, who had been involved in a number of fracas in Girtford at the Girtford Feast and an incident outside the New Inn, reported that he was on duty in the High Street, where he saw William Bird, soot saver of Sandy, very drunk and making use of very bad language.  He refused to go home when requested and staggered into the Red Lion Public House.  The landlord refused to serve him and requested him to leave.  P. C. Watts had to put Bird out of the house.  Eventually he staggered towards home.  Bird was fined five shillings with eight shillings and sixpence costs.

It is a note of the importance of the Red Lion that a number of auction sales of other property were held there from at least 1813 [X440/252-253] to at least 1928 [PK1/4/58]. In 1898 Wells and Company and all its licensed premises, was put up for sale by auction [GK1/36]. The company was bought by Kent businessman George Winch for his son Edward Bluett Winch and the following year Wells and Company was conveyed to the new company called Wells and Winch Limited [Z1039/34/2a].

The countywide register of alehouse licences of 1903 reveals that  the nearest licensed house was 64 yards away, that the state of repair of the Red Lion was good and that it had two front and two back doors. In 1905 licensee Henry Curgenven was convicted by the magistrates of allowing a billiard table to be used during prohibited hours. he was fined two shillings and sixpence with seven and sixpence costs. Not surprisingly he was replaced as licensee later that year.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The valuer visiting the Red Lion [DV1/C27/106] found it owned by Wells and Winch and occupied by H. E. Tingey, who had been there three years and paid rent of £80 per annum.

The brick, tile, slate, lath and plaster detached property comprised a bar, a smoke room, a billiard room, a dining room (annotated “now a private room”), a kitchen and a washhouse with four bedrooms, a bathroom and w. c. above. Outside stood a w. c. and urinal (annotated “now new block”), old timber and tiled barns and a three stall stable.

The valuer commented: “Nice old –fashioned bars” and “A bit of personality here – tied rent absurd”. He also noted: “Buildings all frontage (about 35 yards) no depth”. Trade was two to two and a half barrels of beer and “very little spirits” per week. Takings were about £15 to £20 per week. The brewery owned and the tenant leased two pieces of land, one grass the other arable as part of the rent of the public house, perhaps the land which adjoined the cottage in 1710.

In 1955 the old Red Lion was demolished and a new house, built behind it substituted as shown on the photograph at the head of the page [Z50/99/40a]. This new house closed after just thirty or so years, in 1986, and was subsequently demolished in its turn and the site of the Red Lion now [2010] lies under the Budgen supermarket.


  • F325-326: conveyance of the earlier Red Lion: 1710
  • GK33/1: conveyance: 1710;
  • GK33/2: mortgage: 1725;
  • GK33/4: assignment of mortgage: 1727;
  • F333-334: mortgage of the earlier Red Lion: 1729;
  • GK33/5: assignment of mortgage and further advance: 1735;
  • GK33/7: assignment of mortgage: 1737;
  • GK33/10: assignment of mortgage: 1770;
  • PM2796/1: abstract of title to the property formerly the Red Lion: 1730-c. 1810;
  • P9/1/4: burial of William Blewitt, victualler: 13 Mar 1800;
  • GK33/12: will of William Blewett: 1804;
  • F445 and X440/801: assignment following an inquisition: 1811;
  • X440/252-253: auction sale held at the Red Lion: 1813;
  • GK33/14: conveyance: 1817;
  • HF147/4/723: schedule of deeds: 1817-1887;
  • GK33/15: conveyance: 1819;
  • CLP13: register of alehouse licences: 1822-1828;
  • HF143/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1872-1873;
  • HF143/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1874-1877;
  • HF143/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1878-1881;
  • HF147/20/7: incident with a drunk: 1881;
  • HF143/4: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1882-1890;
  • GK307/20: site plan: c. 1898;
  • HF143/5: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1891-1900;
  • GK1/36: Wells and Company sale catalogue: 1898;
  • HF12/2/4: auction sale held at the Red Lion: 1898;
  • LS688: auction sale at the Red Lion: 1899;
  • HF143/6: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1900-1914;
  • PSBW8/1: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1903-1915;
  • Z1039/34/2a: conveyance of Wells and Company to Wells and Winch: 1899;
  • Z977/1/1: auction sale held at the Red Lion: 1903;
  • Z50/99/39: Baptist Sunday School procession photographed outside the Red Lion: 1907;
  • LS692: auction sale at the Red Lion: 1915;
  • Z1323/1/2: auction sale held at the Red Lion: 1917;
  • PK1/4/58: auction sale held at the Red Lion: 1928;
  • X758/1/11 (50): photograph before demolition: 1955
  • PSBW8/2: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade Petty Sessional Division: 1956-1972;
  • PSBW8/3: Register of Alehouse Licences - Biggleswade and North Bedfordshire Petty Sessional Divisions: 1976-1980;

List of Licensees: note that this is not a complete list. Italics indicate licensees whose beginning and/or end dates are not known:

1710-c. 1729: Sarah Deane; 

1800 William Blewitt the elder;
1800-1804 William Blewitt the younger;
1823-1824: William Blewitt Moore;
1825-1828: William Deeks;
1847-1876: James Sutton, market gardener;
1876-1882: James Sutton (nephew of previous tenant);
1882-1889: James Thomas Sutton;
1889-1903: John William Sutton;
1903-1904: Arthur Spiers;
1904-1905: Henry Grafton Curgenven;
1905-1914: Mark Stamper;
1920-1924: Charles Albert Brown;
1924-1958: Harry Edward Tingey (also captain of fire brigade)
1958-1983: Charles Alfred Attwood Chatterley;
1983-1984: Alan Sydney Frederick Grave;
1984-1986: Walter John Ellis
Hotel house closed 1986.